F-One have now been committed to to offering a single kite (not including their school kites etc) for five seasons as they aim to develop the Bandit as the best kite for all disciplines and style of rider. The most difficult challenge with the B5 development was to improve the B4 in all areas, without losing any of its qualities. To further increase range they wanted to power it up in its low end but also make it more forgiving in strong, gusty conditions. Manoeuvrability improvements were crucial, so the Bandit now feels lighter and can immediately be positioned where you want, even during kite loops. The whole structure, from profile to bridles have been reworked. A thinner leading edge improves aerodynamics, reduces weight and improves performance and a three point bridle system allows the kite to deform and twist more, freeing the kite's profile to be more responsive. The B5 puts more effort through the harness and less through your arms, but the direct bar feeling is retained. Lighter, more manoeuvrable and responsive, F-One believe the B5 is even smoother and ultimately more enjoyable and effective, regardless of the type of riding you do.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
First off this is a very good looking kite and, going by the early indications in its more aggressive looks, we expected this to be a lot of fun. There's never anything budget or discount about the way F-One build their equipment and the bar in particular deserves respect. Lovely and small it's beautifully made, clean and very comfortable with a super smooth trimming rope and cleat. There's a lot of available trim line this year, so you can significantly change the angle of the kite, giving you lots of depower. Pull down on the bar and you really affect the kite. F-One are still using the Velcro chicken-loop release system, but it's functional and works very simply, so we can see why they wouldn't want to mess with it.
Immediately responsive, the Bandit 5 feels excellent at the bar, leaving you in no doubt where the kite is. The steering is nice and quick and the B5 retains a reassuring weight the bar; it definitely delivers horsepower with juice on demand when you want it and would certainly liven up the day of a beginner out on a windy day, but as an experienced group of riders, we relished that.
One of the most improved aspects of the kite are its kite loops. A lot of the kites we test these days are pretty neutral throughout their loops, whipping round very quickly. The B5 loops purposefully and with power, but gives you confidence at the same time, so when you send it you know it will get round smoothly, flying high and completing the circle. There's no loss of power or feeling through the loop.
On top of that there's definitely range in the B5. We took the ten metre out in 15 knots and in 30+ knots and, while we don't recommend this, we managed some seriously good hang-time. It did need some manoeuvring, as a typically high performance kite does, to coax more performance out of it in terms of height, rather than just clock watching in the air, as the kite retains a lot of power in the sky. But the general consensus among the test team is that while the Bandit5 has certainly improved in its balanced, all-round modern levels of handling and huge range, it's perhaps at the cost of some of its vertical punch. In the right hands in normal conditions you can get a nice flight, and of course in strong winds it's great, taking you high and bringing you down gracefully, but the Bandit 4 seemed to have an automatic lift button built in. Now you have to find it before reaching for the skies. The B5 however really does have that C kite feel in a modern, extremely depowerable hybrid kite that so many brands have been aiming for and it feels wonderful.
As the kite has so much range you have to trim the kite down to unhook, but the kite depowers nicely, but you do need to trim it more than you first think.
Superb water relaunch, great low and top ends, pound for pound this kite is up there. It's got pedigree and it's always interesting to see which kite people on the beach come up and talk to us on the beach about the most. People seem more and more intrigued by the Bandit. They should be: it's an exciting kite to fly, has loads of depower, loops really well and performs brilliantly with lots of feeling. Intermediates and above will love it; beginners should stick to the making use of its bottom end.
Total C kite feel and response in a modern, depowerable hybrid package.
KW WOULD CHANGE:
When depowered a lot, some form of retainer would be useful to keep the trimming line from wrapping around your front lines. Having said that, this kite depowers and has more range than most.
14, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5m